“Basaan” screenwriter Luigi Gonzalez talks about his first short film selected at Outfest
By Oliver Carnay
Basaan – Short Film
Director: Gino Jose
Screenwriter: Luigi Gonzalez
John is uptight and closeted. He is perfectly happy letting life pass him by, preferring the safety of loneliness for fear of getting hurt. He reluctantly returns to his hometown when his sister, Gibby, drags him to Basaan, the town’s annual festival. There, he runs into Trey, an old friend of his who he is secretly in love with. The vibrant and spirited Trey calls out John’s current way of life, challenging him to take part in it. John finally lets his guard down, but it may be too late for him.
An interview with screenwriter LUIS GONZALEZ
by Oliver Carnay
“Basaan” was one of the short films selected to be a part of the “Q&A: Queer & Asian” program which screened on Sunday, July 9 during OUTFEST 2017. I had a chat with Filipino screenwriter Luigi Gonzalez (who co-wrote the film with Basaan director Gino Jose). This is his first short film at Outfest and he hopes to submit more in the future .. please read on:
Hollywoodflip: What was your inspiration in writing the script? Did the script come first before the title? How did you come up with the title?
LG: After many years of creating content for other people, my filmmaking partner, Gino (film director, Gino Jose), and I were really itching to make something for ourselves. Since it was my first short film, I knew I wanted to say something about the gay experience. We made it in 2013, and by that time, I had just recently come out to my friends and family… at the age of 28. I was so frustrated with myself at having come out so late. It wasn’t because my family and friends were conservative or anything like that. I was just too chicken to admit it to myself. The worst hate we experience is the one that comes from within. That’s the inspiration for the story. John, the main character, has nothing to fear. No judgmental parents. No conservative authority figure. No oppressive religion. He has a loving sister who accepts him, warts and all, but still, he can’t find it in himself to be himself.
The script definitely came before the title. When the script was finished, Gino and I were scrambling to come up with a title. We tossed a few titles back and forth, but none of them were good matches for the script. Finally, I said, “you know what? Let’s just call it what it is. Basaan.”
Hollywoodflip: How did you manage to shoot at the actual festival?
LG: We went to the mayor’s office and pitched the story to him. He was on board almost instantly. He offered us a guide, a home base to house the equipment and the actors, and basically the freedom to shoot anywhere in town as long as we aren’t bothering anyone.
Hollywoodflip: Can you explain more about the festival? What is it actually called and where is the festival actually happening?
LG: The Basaan Fiesta is a festival that happens every June 24th to celebrate the feast of John the Baptist. For the whole day, people douse each other with water in celebration. It is mostly celebrated by the provinces of San Juan and Balayan, which is where we shot the short. Certain places even celebrate by having a parade of roast pigs, each with its own float and decorations, which the townsfolk then eat at the end of the parade.
Hollywoodflip: What’s the greatest challenge you encountered shooting the film?
LG: Shooting during the actual fiesta. All we did to prepare for shooting was to waterproof our gear. We were not prepared for the chaos that ensued. Basically, from 8am to 4pm, it was pandemonium. Everyone was drenched by the end of the shoot.
Hollywoodflip: How did you come about working with the director of the film? Can you relate how and when the project started, from the time you started writing it, to post production and until you finished the film?
LG: Gino and I have been friends ever since college. We were thesis partners back then and realized our styles really meshed well. We’ve been working together ever since. I started writing the script March of 2013. The festival was in late June, so we had a hard deadline.
The script had to be done by May. Since it was the first short film I’ve ever done, I didn’t know how to go about telling the story. The first draft ended up being 30 pages long. We had my mentor, Marie Jamora, help us streamline the story. Five drafts later, it was ready to shoot.
We ended up having to shoot for a second week after we ran out of time the first week. We saved the kissing scene for last because we wanted Topper and JC to be better acquainted by the time we shot it. The kiss only took two takes and was shot from multiple angles. JC is straight, so he was a little nervous leading up to the kiss. But by the time it came to shoot, he did it with zero hesitation.
For post-production, we entrusted the footage to award-winning editor, Carlo Manatad. He was amazing. He brought something out of the film that we didn’t necessarily see looking at the footage at first glance. The last thing we added was the score, which came to us by way of a dream. After trying out musicians we found on Soundcloud, Gino had a dream about his childhood friend one night, then he remembered his friend’s brother was a musician. He asked his friend if he could get the brother to score the short, and it turned out well.
Hollywoodflip: How was the casting process?
LG: Annika, who played John’s sister, Gibby, was the only cast member who had been with us from the very start. She, like us, was also looking for a project with greater artistic integrity, having only acted in soaps until that point. After one meeting with us, she was instantly on board.
The actors we originally cast as John and Trey were established actors, also itching for more artistic pursuits. However, when their management got wind of the project’s homosexual content, they scheduled shoots for the both of them to conflict with our shooting schedule.
Down two actors a weekend prior to shooting, we were in a panic. We turned to our friends in the theater, and asked them to recommend actors for us. Topper was the actor who was suggested the most. We were so lucky he agreed to do it in such short notice. JC was the last actor cast. He signed on a day or two before shooting.
Hollywoodflip: What do you want your audience to take away after watching “Basaan”?
LG: Being gay, it takes so much courage to be yourself. Don’t deny yourself the privilege of being you. Be brave. “Take off your raincoat.”
Hollywoodflip: How many scripts have you written? Is this the first time you tried submitting your film in a festival?
LG: I’ve written and shot 3 shorts. I have two features that I’m still rewriting, and another feature script in the works. All 3 of my shorts have played in festivals. “After Class” starring Frencheska Farr was an official selection in the AC Electric Shorts Film Festival, and “Waivers” starring Cai Cortez and Aicelle Santos was exhibited at the EuroAsia Shorts in Washington, DC, and won Honorable Mention at the 28th CCP Independent Film & Video Festival.
Hollywoodflip: When was the first time you heard about “Outfest”? Is this the first time you are attending Outfest? When did you submit this film at Outfest? How did you feel the first time you knew “Basaan” was selected at Outfest?
LG: Outfest was the one film festival we wanted to get into. We submitted it more than once, but it was never selected. This year, we screened it at a private event where an Outfest official was present, and we were approached to include it in this year’s lineup.
This is the first time I’m attending Outfest, and I am so proud to be a part of it this year.
Hollywoodflip: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
LG: Ever since I saw Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking and Screaming” on HBO when I was in the 4th grade, I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter. I’ve been creating video content, writing shorts and sketch comedy, since graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2008. In 2015, I wrote a monologue for the play “No Filter,” a hit play about millennials by millennials. “Basaan” is my first short film.
Hollywoodflip: What kind of genre do you usually write?
LG: I try to dip my toes in every genre, but I’ve been told by my classmates and professors that comedy is a part of me. Everything I write has to have a bit of humor in it.
Hollywoodflip: How many film festival “Basaan” had already played at and is it going to any other film festival soon?
LG: The first film festival “Basaan” played was the Chaktomuk Festival in Cambodia in 2014. The first festival it ever won was the Courts des Iles Festival in Tahiti where it won Jury Favorite, and as a result, it was included in the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2015. I was never able to afford going to any of those festivals. Outfest LA is the first time I’ve ever attended a festival screening of any of my shorts.
Hollywoodflip: Any social media you use so your audience can follow you?
LG: You can follow me at instagram.com/_luigigonzalez and on Facebook at facebook.com/SlantedFuzzPictures
Hollywoodflip: Do you have any projects lined up? Any feature film you have written and is finished?
LG: We’re currently working on a gay-themed webseries, and I have two features written that still needs a little polishing before I can say it’s finished.
Hollywoodflip: Good luck with all your projects!
LG: Thank you!